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Commencement and Graduation Convocation Postponed Until Further Notice

by Rosaria Lo Presti

Commencement and graduation convocations for the class of 2020 will be postponed until further notice due to COVID-19. Prior to Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders, Montclair State University planned to hold commencement on May 22, 2020.

President Susan Cole assured students via email on March 23 that the ceremonies will not be completely canceled since these experiences are important to students and families.

A petition was created by Kayla Tozzi, a senior nutrition and food science major, urging the campus community not to cancel commencement due to COVID-19.

Kayla Tozzi created the petition for all of the graduating seniors of 2020 to partake in a graduation ceremony.
Photo courtesy of Kayla Tozzi

“I was encouraged to create this petition because both of my parents did not attend college and this is a huge moment for both them and myself,” Tozzi said. “I have worked so hard in college and really strived for excellence. I have been extremely involved and have overcome many hurdles. Not being able to celebrate these milestones was extremely upsetting to me and I knew I needed to advocate for myself and other graduating seniors.”

As of March 29, 1,558 members out of 2,500 have signed Tozzi’s petition that she started two weeks ago.

“A lot of people do not have the opportunity to go to college or complete a degree, so being able to have this milestone is essential,” Tozzi said. “This may be a family’s first time celebrating a college graduate in their family and taking that away from them after four years of yearning for it would be wrong.”

According to Erika Bleiberg, the university’s media relations director, student feedback is appreciated but the petitions are not responsible for the ultimate decisions made by the administration. Postponing commencement and graduation convocations was made in accordance with Gov. Murphy’s executive orders.

The date of the postponed commencement is currently unknown but would still be celebrated regardless if it will be pushed back until September or October. Seniors will still receive their degrees on time through the mail.

Parents and loved ones filed into the stands of the Prudential Center last May for the spring 2019 graduation ceremony while waiting for the graduates to enter.
Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

Dillion Shannon, a senior business administration major, commented and signed Tozzi’s petition regarding the graduation ceremony.

“I am truly disappointed that the graduation is postponed because for me, the school has always been challenging so having to reach this point and not being able to walk in front of my friends and family is upsetting,” Shannon said. “I don’t blame any of them for having our commencement postponed. I am glad that they are giving us the opportunity to walk, even though it might not be during the time that we all expected.”

Another senior who signed and commented on Tozzi’s petition is Jayme Pilione, a business administration major.

“I feel grateful that my graduation is being postponed because it’s better than it being canceled altogether,” Pilione said. “I would still attend the late graduation. I would rather walk late than never.”

Given the circumstances, Martha Gavidia, a senior linguistics major, predicted a postponed commencement, but is fine with not having a celebration.

“It is a big accomplishment but it is not defined by the ceremony,” Gavidia said. “Ceremony or not, I will still be getting my degree and all of the hard work that has led me to this point is what really matters.”

Further updates will be made regarding commencement ceremonies by the university in April.

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